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School prayer

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

I became concerned about the politicization of important educational issues like classroom technology, class size, school safety, uniforms, multilingual programs, accountability, vouchers, and charter schools. I got concerned enough to pray about it. And that was when I saw that the great diversity in the body politic could be helpful in ensuring that the varying needs of pupils aren't ignored.

Talking about this issue with Lisle Staley, director of research and evaluation for a large school district in California, I learned more of how some educators are striving to meet the needs of each and every schoolchild. Ms. Staley feels that the most successful programs nurture the unfoldment of the pupil's own ideas, as opposed to merely encouraging the accumulation of knowledge. This means, of course, that each child is listened to.

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Staley recognizes that her understanding of God as the Father of us all enables her to see each child as essentially already made whole and complete. Instead of measuring children to determine how they meet certain standards, she says, "We need to expect that the intelligence is there, and to look for ways in which it can be revealed."

I came away from our conversation still valuing the diversity of the body politic, but more alert that school decisions that are motivated politically may well ignore the needs of a minority. The most important fallout of our conversation was a reminder to me that there are educators and other caring adults who are praying to God on behalf of all our children, and that these prayers are answered.

I remember a year I spent as a junior high teacher. There was one pupil who was slightly older and noticeably different from others in the class. He sat in the back row nearest the door and did nothing. It seemed inevitable that he would fail the class.

Toward the end of the first semester, the school held its usual parents' night. Each teacher taught a shortened version of a typical class. Quite spontaneously (for this was not in my lesson plan), I connected something in our English assignment to a current event, and asked pupils to volunteer responses. To my amazement, the young man in the back row held up his hand. I was afraid. I had no idea what he would say. But I called on him. He gave the most intelligent answer I could have expected, including details of the current event that I did not know. This marked the end of his estrangement. For the rest of that year, he was a valuable, contributing member of the class.

I have asked myself many times why the breakthrough came that night. Obviously the presence of interested adults made a big difference. Since then I've become convinced that there was another factor involved - prayer. At that time, I didn't know very much about prayer. But I did have the welfare of the children at heart. Later, I learned that the family of another pupil in that class actively prayed for both their daughter and her school. One of them had been in the classroom that night. I think it might have been the prayers of that person that gave me the freedom to diverge from the lesson plan and so draw from the young man his ideas and observations.

Today educational issues arouse more widespread interest. It is logical that more prayers are being offered in support of our children and their schools. Not only are the children benefited when people turn to God on their behalf; the body politic is elevated as well. Jesus, referring to his Hebrew teaching, said, "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God" (John 6:45). And in First Thessalonians we read, "But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another" (4:9).

We have the opportunity to be "taught of God" - this is a continuing education program that will promote a more inclusive and practical love to prevail in our schools. God is Love, and "Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 13).

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Through their desire to help children, parents and teachers reflect love that is from the universal God. Good desires are prayers. Prayers that help our schools to better meet the needs of every child, socially and academically.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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